June 16 - 1940 - Philippe Petain Becomes Prime Minister of France
Marshal Philippe Petain was one of the great national heroes of France due to his performance as a general in World War I against the Germans. When a different German Army invaded France in 1940, however, it was Petain who became the closest collaborator with the Nazis as the head of the "State of France," better known as the Vichy Regime. Petain was not a Fascist, or even a close Nazi sympathizer before taking power. Yet he had become Deputy Prime Minister after the invasion began, and when Paul Reynaud could no longer remain as Prime Minister by June, it was Petain's turn to lead France. He was the head of the faction in the Cabinet who wanted an Armistice, ostensibly to save French lives. Instead, he dismissed the French Republic and made the French Government Authoritarian within a month. Petain's real power was relatively limited in reality, as he was the head of a Nazi puppet state that only controlled Southern France. At the end of the war, it would be his former junior officer and leader of the Free French Forces General Charles de Gaulle who would lead France, while Petain was found guilty of treason.